Advanced nuclear technology brought to fruition could produce electricity at an average levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) roughly 40% lower than conventional pressurized water reactors, according to a July 25 study by the Energy Innovation Reform Project and Energy Options Network (EON). “At these costs, nuclear would be effectively competitive with any other option for power generation. At the same time, this could enable a significant expansion of the nuclear footprint to the parts of the world that need clean energy the most—and can least afford to pay high price premiums for it,” the report says.
Based on data provided by eight advanced reactor companies, EON created a cost model that includes default values for each potential cost category for an nth-of-a-kind (NOAK) nuclear plant (based on previous cost studies conducted at national laboratories) and provides the capability for companies to incorporate new business models and delivery strategies.
Using this model, EON was able to compare plant costs for advanced and conventional reactors. “Previous work by the Energy Options Network (EON) found that each company had its own approach to estimating plant costs, making true ‘apples-to-apples’ comparisons with conventional pressurized water reactors (PWRs) impossible. This study was designed to address that deficiency,” the report explains.
Using the data obtained, EON was able to compute an average LCOE for advanced reactors as well as share the minimum and maximum LCOE reported. The average LCOE from all participating companies came out to $60/MWh, 39% lower than the $99/MWh expected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration for conventional PWR nuclear plants entering service in the early 2020s. The minimum reported LCOE for the advanced technologies was $36/MWh and the maximum was $90/MWh.
Data was collected from Elysium Industries, General Electric, Moltex Energy, NuScale Power, Terrestrial Energy, ThorCon Power, Transatomic Power, and X-energy.
While the results of the study make the future of advanced reactors look very bright, the study’s authors warn that these numbers are certainly not set in stone. “This finding has important strategic implications for the industry and the nation. While recognizing the relatively early state of development for these technologies, this study nevertheless represents an initial, rigorous quantification of the plausible projected costs of power plants built with advanced reactors,” the report says.
—Abby L. Harvey is a POWER reporter.